AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers pushed forward with a plan to craft a supplemental budget Tuesday in order to address revenue shortfalls because Gov. Paul LePage says he won't submit a proposal to fix a budget he tried to spike.
The supplemental budget is typically submitted by the governor but LePage's office says he doesn't intend to offer one this year because Democrats rejected his budget proposals last session.
The Appropriations committee requested information on their budgets from the state agencies and departments, beginning the process to create a supplemental budget themselves and setting the stage for what is sure to be one of the most contentious issues next session.
Without a supplemental budget that reflects new expenses since the last spending plan — like $20 million that the state now has to pay for a psychiatric hospital that lost its federal funding — the state's budget will be out of balance.
Democrats say they believe the governor's refusal to submit a supplemental spending plan is unprecedented and will heap more work onto lawmakers. But they say they will now move forward with a plan of their own to address the budget gaps.
"We hope he'll come to the table, but if he's not willing to take responsibility for this work then we will go ahead and the Legislature will do what we've been sent here to do, which is to govern," Democratic Rep. Peggy Rotundo, co-chair of the state's budget writing committee, said Tuesday.
LePage, a Republican, opposed the Legislature's two-year, $6.3 billion budget because it included sales and meals and lodging tax increases. He vetoed it, but lawmakers voted to override his veto just days before state government would have shut down.
Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for LePage, said Tuesday that lawmakers created the problems in the budget because they didn't implement structural changes that LePage wanted, like suspending costly revenue sharing.
"What he tried to do a year ago was approach lawmakers with a reasonable budget that was addressing long-term fiscal stability," she said. "So for them to come back and lay blame now is disingenuous. He did participate in the process and they rejected his proposal."
The debate over the supplemental budget reflects larger tensions between Democrats and LePage, who've recently been at odds over his limiting his administration's appearances at committee hearings — another policy they say is unique to LePage.
"I've been in the Legislature going on my 14th year. ... All those years, I've never seen a situation where a governor has chosen not to bring forward a supplemental budget," Rotundo said.
But Bennett said that since LePage didn't sign off on the state budget, it's up to the Legislature to fix it.
"Just because he's taking a different approach doesn't mean it's wrong," she said.
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